How to make think tank work more participatory?

10 ideas  •  25 participants

As part of the 2019 Winter School for Thinktankers and the 2019 On Think Tanks Conference we ask the question of how to strengthen participatory elements in think tank work.


Think tanks are often perceived by the public as part of the political establishment, a remote elite that is inaccessible to normal citizens. In that role, they may contribute to a sense of disenfranchisement from the political process and declining trust in the democratic system.


However, think tanks may also play an important role as mediators between the public and political decision makers, thereby reducing barriers to political participation, strengthening civil society and increasing trust. Public engagement and participatory methods may be used by think tanks at different stages of their business, from identifying priorities and content creation to dissemination. This may bring a range of benefits from improving content and increasing reach to building legitimacy both with decision makers and the public.


However, a participatory approach also creates many new questions and challenges. Who exactly is ‘the public’? How can participation be made more inclusive and/or representative? How to engage a broader audience in a specific context - particularly in less digitized societies or contexts of political repression? How to reconcile the ‘expert’ role of think tanks with the participation of a less specialized public?


The aim of this challenge is to collect creative approaches to public participation as a reference for leaders of present and future think tanks. The challenge is public. Results will be published by foraus and On Think Tanks as an online series.

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